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Proposed Springs Funding to Benefit Environment and Communities of Northwest Florida

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 11, 2014
CONTACT: NWFWMD Public Information Office (850) 539-2663 or Lauren.Engel@nwfwater.com

Proposed Springs Funding to Benefit Environment and Communities of Northwest Florida

HAVANA – On Wednesday, the Legislative Budget Commission approved the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) proposed $69 million in springs projects leveraged by the $30 million Governor Scott secured in the “It’s Your Money Tax Cut Budget” to bring the total invested in springs projects to more than $100 million in the last two years.

The Northwest Florida Water Management District will receive more than $6.8 million to implement eight projects designed to improve conditions in Wakulla Springs and Jackson Blue Spring, as well as springs associated with the Holmes Creek and Econfina Creek systems.

“The District commends Governor Scott, the Florida Legislature and Secretary Vinyard for their continued commitment to the protection and restoration of Florida’s springs,” said Executive Director Jon Steverson. “This funding will play a crucial role in the District’s efforts to protect water supply and preserve the natural resources of our area’s important spring ecosystems.”
Wakulla Springs Protection Projects

DEP and the District will invest more than $5.5 million to implement four wastewater improvement projects that will significantly improve the quality of water entering Wakulla Springs by reducing nutrients. The District will partner with Leon County for two of the projects (Lake Munson Target Area and Lake Bradford Mobile Home Park wastewater improvement projects) to connect a combined 160 single family septic units to the City of Tallahassee’s sewer system, providing a 95 percent reduction in nitrogen loading.  The County will provide 50 percent matching funding on both projects—leveraging an additional $1 million in springs protection.

“Leon County is pleased to partner with the District and DEP to implement these projects,” said Leon County Administrator Vincent S. Long. “Through this partnership, we are making an investment that will allow us to improve the health of Wakulla Springs and protect the natural systems of this area for our future generations.”

The District will also partner with Wakulla County to implement two projects (Wakulla Gardens and Magnolia Gardens Wastewater Improvement projects), which together will connect 270 single family septic units to the County’s sewer system and provide a 93 percent reduction in nitrogen loading. The County will provide 63 percent matching funding on both projects, for a total of approximately $7.7 million.

“These projects represent a win both for the environment and the residents of Wakulla County,” said County Commissioner Ralph Thomas. “They will allow us to make major improvements to the quality of water reaching this iconic spring, while minimizing the financial burden to the County.”

Jackson Blue Spring Protection Projects

The proposed plan includes nearly $1 million to implement two projects to improve water quality and increase the water quantity available to Jackson Blue Spring. More than $487,000 will be used to build upon the success of the District’s Jackson Blue Spring Agricultural Best Management Practices (BMP) grant program. This grant program will provide cost-share funding to agricultural producers for irrigation system improvements and equipment and tools to reduce fertilizer and pesticide use and improve water use efficiency—protecting both water supply and quality. Agricultural partners provide 25 percent in matching funding for this program.

The District will also initiate a project to investigate the Claiborne Aquifer as an alternative water source to the Floridan Aquifer for crop irrigation to offset water use demands, which would make additional water available to the springs.

"The proposed projects for Jackson Blue Spring will help the agricultural community develop improved practices and reduce water use," said Representative Marti Coley (R-Marianna). "As we work to craft viable long-term solutions, I applaud Governor Scott, DEP, the District and the local agencies for their willingness to continue working in cooperation with local land owners to promote sustainable plans that will support both our economy and environment."

Econfina Creek and Holmes Creek Springs Protection Projects

Devil’s Hole Spring is a second magnitude spring, located on Econfina Creek, with a discharge of approximately 21 million gallons per day. This spring is a popular public recreation area that is experiencing significant erosion and de-stabilization. The Devil’s Hole Spring Restoration project will stabilize, restore, and protect streambanks at the spring, which will improve water quality, restore historical shoreline impacted by erosion, and prevent destruction of habitat resulting from erosion and recreational use on Econfina Creek.  In addition to the shoreline restoration, boardwalks and access points will be installed to prevent future water quality and habitat impacts.

The Holmes Creek Springs Complex Restoration project will stabilize the streambank and provide stormwater treatment and appropriate riparian access at Cotton Landing, a recreation site along Holmes Creek.  The project will prevent erosion and sediment runoff into the creek and help protect this unique karst system.

“As a member of the District’s Governing Board and a Washington County resident, I want to thank Governor Scott and DEP for recognizing the importance of our springs to our residents and visitors,” said Governing Board Member Gary Clark. “We look forward to continuing to work with state and local partners to protect these irreplaceable natural treasures.”

Including the $6.8 million proposed by this plan, the District’s proposed Tentative Fiscal Year 2014-2015 budget includes more than $8.2 million for springs restoration and protection. This builds on the more than $3.3 million invested in springs protection by the District during the current Fiscal Year.

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